Woman Who Fired Gun at Trooper Near Napavine Pleads Guilty to Attempted Murder

Kelli R. Buggs-Jones: As Part of Plea Deal, Prosecutor Will Recommend 20-Year Jail Sentence

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A Tacoma woman who allegedly fired a gun at a Washington State Patrol trooper in the Napavine area — and was then shot in the jaw by the trooper — has pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree attempted murder.

The defendant, Kelli R. Buggs-Jones, had been accused of shooting five rounds at Washington State Patrol Trooper Justin Ausborn, who had stopped and approached Buggs-Jones after he observed her walking along the shoulder of southbound Interstate 5 outside of the guardrail at around 8:45 p.m. on May 26, 2020, according to court documents.

Ausborn returned fire and struck Buggs-Jones once in the face. She was transported via ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital for medical care. Ausborn was not injured.

“I don’t recall the incident based on my mental state and drug use, but I’ve watched the video and acknowledge that is me and I did do such a regrettable act,” wrote Buggs-Jones in her guilty plea, which was submitted in Lewis County Superior Court on June 3.

In her plea, Buggs-Jones stated she “did exhibit an extreme indifference to human life by shooting a gun at Trooper Ausborn,” who was “acting within his role as a law enforcement officer” at the time of the incident.

Buggs-Jones was first booked into the Lewis County Jail on a $1 million bail upon her release from the hospital on June 12, 2020, and will remain at the jail at least until her sentencing hearing on June 25.

As part of the plea agreement, the prosecutor’s office will recommend to the sentencing judge that Buggs-Jones serve 240 months in jail followed by 36 months in community custody. The prosecutor will additionally recommend that the court issue a protection order for Ausborn.

The maximum penalty for first-degree attempted murder in Washington state is life imprisonment and up to $50,000 in fines.

One week before Buggs-Jones entered a guilty plea, Judge Joely O’Rourke struck down a motion submitted by Buggs-Jones’ attorney, Jacob Clark, to dismiss the case on allegations that the state violated due process.

Before she entered a guilty plea, Buggs-Jones’ case had been scheduled to go to trial on June 7.

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Previous reporting by The Chronicle was used in this report.

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